Tips From The Top: One On One With Anthony Jabbour

I spoke to Anthony Jabbour, CEO of Dun & Bradstreet, about his journey and best advice

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Adam: First things first, I am sure readers would love to learn more about you. What is something about you that would surprise people? 

Anthony: There are some folks that know that I was born in Canada. Some folks may even know that I grew up in a small town on the southernmost point of Canada called Leamington in Ontario. What may be less known is that my hometown of Leamington is also known as the tomato capital of Canada and growing up along that very fertile agricultural land gave me an avenue to work on farms from a very young age picking tomatoes until I was old enough to get a real job. Something else that may be surprising is that I grew up there with my 9 sisters and no brothers. I usually lead with that fact because it elicits immediate sympathy even though I really shouldn’t get any because my sisters are awesome.

Adam: How did you get here? What experiences, failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your growth? 

Anthony: Over 20 years ago now when the dot com boom was in full force and internet banking was in its infancy, I helped Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) launch an internet bank in Canada and then subsequently came down to serve as the Chief Information Officer for CIBC’s endeavor to launch a similar service for US and global customers.

At the time, my second child had just been born and making the decision to transplant my family to the U.S. was not an easy one to make. However, living through that boom and bust cycle change, ultimately, served as a very educational experience. It taught me a lot about the importance of speed and urgency in decision making, but also the importance of taking calculated risks in decision making.     

That experience also set the stage for me to combine my passion for innovative technology with learning to really understand the nuts and bolts of banking and services from a financial institution’s perspective. 

I can’t emphasize enough how invaluable that experience as a client has been for me throughout my career. That broader experience helps me grasp a client’s bigger picture objectives and challenges in order to help them better serve their clients.

Adam: In your experience, what are the defining qualities of an effective leader? How can leaders and aspiring leaders take their leadership skills to the next level? 

Anthony: I believe having personal relationships that are built on respect, trust and transparency with the people you work alongside of as well as those clients you do business with is crucial to having successful long-term business relationships. 

That foundation will facilitate the way you communicate along the way. When things go well, it means more to celebrate. Similarly, that strong personal relationship makes addressing challenges and issues much easier to deliver and faster to resolve. 

Having these personal relationships also makes what you do more enjoyable. I’ve been fortunate to become close friends with many amazing people, who also happen to be clients and colleagues. 

Adam: What are your three best tips applicable to entrepreneurs, executives and civic leaders?

Anthony: 

  1. Act with a sense of urgency. The person, company or team that acts with the most urgency will win – every time. That doesn’t mean be imprudent. It just means, plan, prioritize, and most of all, take actions.
  1. Don’t be a victim. Feeling defeated or hopeless about a loss, a rejection, or a failure is time and energy taken away from moving forward. Instead, own the results, accept those challenging situations, and learn what to do differently from them.
  1. Embrace challenges and calculated risks so that you never stop learning and you’re always pushing yourself and your organization. 

Adam: What is your best advice on building, leading and managing teams? 

Anthony: It is critical to engage in frequent and ongoing communication in order to ensure everyone on the team is clear on the objectives and is moving in the same direction toward accomplishing the goals. 

Make sure that you’re looking at things from another’s perspective. The better understanding you have of other people’s motives, the more it will help you formulate your response or your next move. 

Adam: What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received? 

Anthony: Don’t shy away from embracing challenges and taking calculated risks. Those are the opportunities that will give you the chance to learn new skills, that will open new avenues to explore, and that spur on innovation. Great things do not happen without taking calculated risks. 

Adam: What is one thing everyone should do to pay it forward? 

Anthony: In all things, treat everyone with respect. While it’s such an obvious and simple gesture that requires no resources, it is immeasurable in its impact when it can make someone feel seen, heard, and valued. 

Always treating everyone with respect has been a lifelong engrained value that I’ve found continually pays itself forward. 

Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you as a leader?

Anthony: Growing up and until injuries sidelined my recreational hoop dreams, I enjoyed feeding my competitive nature on a basketball court where individual skill and talent can only take you so far, but where you’re most successful when you’ve invested the time in learning and understanding your teammates and their strengths in order to give everyone the ball in the best spots to succeed.  

Nowadays, I’m more of an avid golfer, which is a competitive sport that requires a lot of strategy, skill, practice and sometimes a little luck, which are also traits necessary to be a successful leader.

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